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Although there is a great deal of truth and wisdom in Weizenbaum's message, I believe that he overlooks the reason that SDI would be destabilizing and another step in the Arms race. It is not because of the stated goals of the program (Reagan's March 1983 speech) but because those goals are not achievable. There would be nothing wrong with rendering ICBMs and other weapons obsolete. On the contrary, everyone should want to see every country, city, and town protected by an impenetrable shield that would free it from the fear of the indiscriminate horror that rained down on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. It is because the SDIO efforts will not lead to technology of that sort, that SDI is the things that Weizenbaum says it is.
I agree with Weizenbaum that we need to seek non-technological solutions. Technology is not likely to provide solutions in a situation where we oppose a power with equally sophisticated technology.
I believe that SDI is one issue where both disarmament and armament supporters could agree. Both sides seek peace through different mechanisms, but neither will find their goals advanced by an untrustworthy “shield”.
Peter: I love your material that's being generated and produced, but I note that it seems to weigh overwhelmingly against the computer. Aren't people sending you any GOOD stuff? Like with the aid of a computer, 27 lives were saved, etc.? Like using the new NEC fingerprint computer, they were able to match the Stalker's finger-prints in 3 minutes, etc? Maybe you need a Call for Good News?
Today's SF Chronicle had a nice article on “Computer Holds Promise in Diagnosing Heart Disease”, in greatly reducing the number of false negatives. But even there are significant risks. Suppose you or your doctor trusts the computer program more because it indeed has fewer false negatives, and now you produce a false negative. We are back to the case of the woman who killed her daughter and tried to kill herself and her son because the computer program had falsely produced an “incurable” diagnosis. (See the July 85 issue of Software Engineering Notes.)
Well, in the first issue of RISKS I recall saying there has got to be more to this forum than just pointing out negative things. I noted hope from the research community, although one of the agonizing things that we have observed in the ACM Special Interest Group on Software Engineering (SIGSOFT) is the enormous gap between the research community and what is actually being done in practice. For critical systems, the ordinary software development techniques are simply not good enough.
Yes, we should of course point out successes. For example, the Shuttle project has had many — along with its much more visible problems.
In a recent issue of PC Magazine, Peter Norton espoused the idea of substituting a faster clock chip to enhance performance. Now, according to the folk on the Info-IBM PC digest, this may create problems. An off the shelf PC AT is composed of components guaranteed to work to IBM spec, e.g. 6 Mhz. If I increase the clock rate, then the whole rest of the machine has to be up to snuff. If not, a part dies and I pay a nasty repair bill.
Now if I took Mr. Norton's word as gospel, swapped chips and set my PC AT on fire, would he be liable? How about the publisher?
When evaluating the risks associated with various forms of technology it is sometimes useful to have in hand the available data.
The Food and Drug Administration published a study in 1981:
An Evaluation of Radiation Emission from Video Display Terminals
HHS Publication FDA 81-8153
The ionizing, optical, RF and acoustic radiation from a number of terminals was measured. I will briefly quote some of the conclusions of this study.
For ionizing radiation:
Sufficient research information is available to estimate a range of risks of injury from ionizing radiation exposure. Delayed disease, such as heritable mutation or cancer, usually forms a basis for the estimation, expressed in terms of the instances of the effect per person per unit of radiation (rad,rem, or R). The risk estimates form a basis for radiation protection guidelines.
For a VDT operator, the radiation protection guideline for individuals in the general population is appropriate. The guideline — 500 millirem per year — is for man-made radiation exposures excluding medical use. For both normal and Phase III operating conditions, the likely emission from a VDT is 0.1 mR per hour or less. Terminals capable of exceeding the 0.5 mR per hour regulatory limit receive special attention (see Section 3.2, above). With assumptions of 6 hours of viewing per day, 5 days per week for 50 weeks per year, the annual radiation dose to an individual 2 inches from the front surface of a screen emitting 0.1 mR per hour would be 150 millirem. Note that 2 inches is an unrealistically short viewing distance; as one moves further away from the screen, the radiation exposure decreases correspondingly.
For RF radiation:
Research information on bioeffects for the frequency range 15kHz to 125 kHz is lacking, so empirical estimates of injury are not possible. However, the radiation in this frequency region interacts only slightly with the human body, so that significant biological effects are unlikely. At the present time, no standard or guideline has been adopted in the U.S. for grequencies below 10 MHz.
For ultrasound radiation:
When airborne ultrasound impinges on human skin less than 1 percent is absorbed, the remainder being reflected. The ear, however, is an efficient coupler of acoustic energy from air into the human body. Therefore, investigations of the biological effects of ultrasound levels much higher than those found in the VDT survey have included temporary threshold shifts in hearing (6). So-called subjective effects have also been associated with high levels of ultrasound exposure, and include fatigue, headache, tinnitis, instability, a “fullness” in the ear, and nausea. One report (7) tentatively associates the subjective effects with audible high frequency components of sonic radiation. The studies were performed in the exposure range 70-120 dB in an industrial setting, and at 150 dB. No long term effects or delayed injuries are known.
No formal standard for ultrasound exposure presently exists in the U.S. Among several voluntary guidelines available, the recommendations of W.I. Acton of the United Kingdom were used to compare the VDT results, because they are the most conservative in this frequency range. The highest acoustic measurement obtained from a VDT in this study was 68 dB, well below Acton's guideline of 75 dB, and well below the energies associated with biological effects.
For “ergonomic” factors:
7. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The word processing field has expanded much faster than has the understanding of its impact on people who use VDTs. The impact may be felt in areas such as employee morale, compensation, work hours, and work conditions. We suggest that work conditions be given serious conisideration as the primary cause of VDT-user complaints. The problem is not simple, however. An extensive review of stress factors in the word processing work area (10) identified five separate factors that contribute to fatigue: vision, posture, environment, task organization, and higher order items such as disease susceptibility. As early as 1976, it was recognized that glare (room lighting reflecting from the VDT face plate), work position, ambient noise, and work duration (absence of breaks) could be the most important factors influencing the VDT worker's health (11). The parallel between the 1976 and 1979 studies is sufficiently strong for us to suggest that efforts expended to reduce stress caused by these factors would also reduce the adverse impact on health.
The above quotes from the FDA document are some of its most importantconclusions. References to additional work are provided in thedocument. There has been further work since the time of this report(1981). I do not have immediate access to these later references. Ibelieve they tend to bear out the conclusions of this report.
From conversations with those closer to this field than I, I get theimpression that one of the major stress factors in commercial wordprocessing operations is the highly regimented work situation, and thepossibility of being fired, if the operator does not turn out a certainminimum amount of mistake free work per hour.
Many of the crt/workplace issues you raise are shared by another groupwhose members are quite diverse in their use of crt terminals:secretaries.
I know this is not quite the correct forum, but workplace rules andlegislation designed to "protect" users of terminals from problems ofposture, vision, and stress should consider this forgotten group ofworkers as well. Their problems are nearly the same.
In response to:
Dave Curry's right. I remember reading a newspaper report which said, in essence, that the NWS/NOAA lost because it had failed to predict the storm. I didn't believe it, so I read on, and the report said that since they had known of a broken buoy, had failed to repair it (I think it had been broken for several months), and therefore failed to get the information needed to give a warning, they were guilty of negligence and had to pay. Quite a far cry from what the story had begun as!
On the other hand, the NWS also said that even if the buoy had beenalive at the time, they would not have predicted the storm. Thisisn't to defend sloppy journalism, just to point out that thenewspaper was in essence correct in this instance.
Did the NWS say that (i.e., even if the buoy had been alive at the time,they could not have predicted the storm) in testimony, or after the verdict?If after the verdict, no comment. But if as testimony, Herb, the jury (orjudge) apparently didn't believe the NWS testimony. If you believe the NWSclaim, the headline was correct, but it's unfair to say the court ruled thatway when it explicitly based its ruling on negligence.
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